I have been photographing my father since I became a photographer. It has been more important after I moved to Oregon and as he become older. I was never sure when the last time I would see him. The last I saw him was in the spring when he traveled from California enjoy an Oregon spring and take in the Rose Festival Parade, as I covered it for the Confederated Tribes of Grand newspaper Smoke Signals. He died on Nov. 3, after being taken to the hospital with a bladder issue.
At first he thought that photography was hobby and nothing to build a career, and I am sure that he was not too pleased when I decided that photography was something that I needed to pursue. The turning point was when he saw my first byline in the SFSU school newspaper when I had my first photo published on the front page. He looked and saw photo by Timothy J. Gonzales, looked up at me and said “I like that.”
My life hasn’t been an easy one. There have been more times than I care to bring up when I needed his support. His support was unwavering. Even when I felt that I was a complete failure, he never treated me this way. He was the safe harbor in the turbulent seas that has been my life.
I went to see you. The mortuary made arrangements and you were on a gurney, wrapped in a blanket. As I reached down to touch you, your skin was cold, as you had just been removed from the refrigerated unit where you were stored waiting for cremation. As I looked at you I recognized you as my father, but not the essence of who you were. I was looking at the vessel that carried your spirit, your kindness, your stubbornness, all the things that made you who you were.
I needed to see you before you are cremated. I stood next to you and had a chance to tell you how grateful and thankful that I was able to call you Dad. My only wish was that I could have said this before you died. Your death came so quickly and out of the blue. It was cathartic to say goodbye to you.
Then with my camera I took your final portrait.